Devolving Public Funds

devolutionLooking at the tussle between the national government and the county governments on the issue of allocation of public funds to the counties leaves one wondering; just where is the bone of contention? Both the national and the county governments should all be working for the common good of the citizens in an absolute situation.

However, when it comes to money matters, seems like either of the two governments have some hidden agenda that is not for the good of the citizens, thus bringing out the conflict. The other scenario can be that both the national and the county governments have their selfish interests which they would wish to satisfy by controlling a large share of the public funds.

A wise eye can be able to deduce that the actual problem is that both the national government and the county governments don’t really understand the concept behind the devolving of public funds. Article 174(g) of the constitution states that one of the objectives of the devolved form of governance is “to ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya”. Public funds by all meanings and interpretations fall squarely under the category of national resources and therefore they also ought to be shared ‘equitably’ throughout Kenya.

Fourth Schedule of the constitution on ‘distribution of functions between the national government and the county government’ clearly outlines what the national government and county governments’ functions are to be. Looking at the functions outlined there for either, it clearly comes out that the role of the national government is majorly that of policy formulation. On the other hand, the roles of the county governments are those of implementation of the policies formulated by the national governments.

The constitution also provides that at least 15% of the public funds at the national level shall be devolved to the counties every year. The governors on the other hand are crying for at least 40% of the national budget to be allocated to the county governments. The governors claim that they bear the greatest burden in the development agenda and thus they need more money to implement the development policies set at the national level. The national government on the other hand doesn’t seem to be dancing to the governors’ tune.

The conflict therefore seem to be emanating from the lack of clear understanding of who does what and by virtue of what they do, how much should be allocated to them. This then brings in the idea of “funds following functions.”devolution 2

Under this principle of “funds following functions”, funds should be allocated to the national government or to the various counties based on the functions they have that shall consume those funds. Going back to schedule four of the constitution, the counties bear the burden of implementing most of the development functions as compared to the national government.

Based on the fact that most of the development agenda shall be driven by how well county governments implement national policies on development, it therefore becomes naturally sensible to allocate more funds to the counties to enable them carry out their activities at the grassroots.

It is in that light that I am of the opinion that more funds should be allocated to county governments and end the unnecessary tussle between the national government and the county governments.



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